Friday, October 06, 2006

Constantinople, Part 3: Friday Night

Once we crossed the bridge, it was just a short walk over to the Spice Market (see # 12 and 13 on the map of the previous post).

In the top photo here Pelagia is being "worked" by one of the salesmen. "Normally, it's 50, but for you -- just for you -- 40," etc. "Not 40? Ok, 30."

The guys in these shops and the many local restaurants are amazing -- they know 5 or 6 languages -- or at least all the appropriate phrases for tourists. In fact, the tourism here really surprised us -- it was worse than Disneyland! This was the off-season, and the city was still packed full of tourists. Their whole economy seems to be based off milking tourists.

After the Spice Market, we went inside the New Mosque (that's me at the entrance in the middle photo). We took our shoes off and went inside.

The third photo is just outside the New Mosque and the Spice Market as the Ramadan fast was ending.

It was nice to be there during Ramadan and see how people actually observe their faith. It seemed to us like a majority of the locals actually observed the fast, and refrained from eating until the minarets played this recorded chanting at the official sunset. Then everything stopped and people gathered together and ate.

Our group was headed back to the hotel, but we had them point us in the direction of one of the famous Turkish baths. As we walked up the hill to it, we saw a busy restaurant on a side street. We stopped there to eat and had the best meal of our stay. The place was full of locals breaking their fast -- we didn't see any other tourists. The food was the best of our trip and the price was half.

Fortunately, we sat next to a local who spoke fluent English and he helped us order. It was great. After that, we went up to the Turkish bath, or haman. What an experience!

Men and women have separate, identical baths. First you go into this enormous heated room which consists of a huge marble slab in the middle. You lay there for awhile until someone comes and gives you a massage/assault. Pelagia complained that hers was pretty wimpy, but my man, Ibor, practically assaulted me. He didn't speak any English, so I had no idea what he was doing until, for example, he would just grab my head and snap my neck. It felt good, but oh man! Speaking of America's litigious culture, I can't IMAGINE someone in America doing that.

First, you'd have to fill out a medical history, then sign a legal waiver. Then the masseuse would have to have a number of years of school and be certified by some agency. I guarantee you that Ibor had no certification. He did, however, know enough English at the end to make it clear to me -- several times -- that I was NOT to tip the attendant upstairs, but only Ibor downstairs.

We also had the good fortune to meet an American -- from Walla Walla, WA no less -- at the bath. He had been doing some missionary work in Africa and was now travelling through Europe. He was a great guy. He was not Orthodox, but he knew several people from the Orthodox Church in Walla Walla and really wanted to learn more. We arranged to meet him Sunday morning so that he could visit some of the Orthodox sites with us.

No comments: